One of the most outspoken school superintendents in Kansas, often a lightning rod for conservatives in the Legislature, announced Tuesday night that she is retiring in June.
Cynthia Lane has led Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for eight years and spent 29 years in the district. Before KCK she was director of special education in the Spring Hill District.
"It certainly hasn’t been easy but the work we have done has been right," she told the school board on a night when four new members were sworn in. "I will continue to be a strong advocate and supporter of this school district."
Lane will step away from the district on June 30, the day that the Kansas Supreme Court has ordered lawmakers to have a solution to inadequate funding in the hands of justices. The KCK district is one of the named plaintiffs in the Gannon school funding case. Lane had just been elevated to superintendent when the case was filed in 2010.
Since that time, Lane has testified at the Gannon trial in front of a three-judge panel in Shawnee County. She has appeared numerous times in front of legislative committees. She would often take heat from conservatives, who accused schools of overspending and school administrators of being overpaid.
Perhaps the best-known dust up was after the district spent $47,000 in 2015 on a new piano for Sumner Academy. Conservatives latched onto the purchase as an example of out-of-control spending.
“First blush you hear it and you just kind of go, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Rep. Steve Huebert from Valley Center said at the time.
It turns out the piano replaced one that was 40 years old. Lane fired right back in her blog: "Someone watching all of this grandstanding from afar, might interpret this to mean, stop buying pianos for schools and the state revenue shortfall will be solved!"
Lane said she had always planned to retire after eight years as superintendent.
"It’s been a difficult journey to think about stepping away but I know it’s the right time. It has always been the plan," she said.
Still, nobody knew she was going to make the announcement Tuesday.
"You have been a courageous advocate for our students, but even more, you have been a tireless voice for all children in Kansas," board President Brenda Jones said.
Sam Zeff is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.